Cyber penetrations of critical infrastructure amount to what the military calls “Preparation of the battlespace.” Russian cyber implants in the United States and other NATO countries provide potential leverage in a crisis, and – if push comes to shove – the ability to impose significant pain through non-kinetic, non-lethal cyber attacks.
Russia undertook cyber attacks on Estonia more than a decade ago, and it employed cyber weapons in support of its invasion of Georgia in 2008.
Cyber weapons are not, of course, the sole preserve of Russia.
Would the United States or Russia respond with, say, missile strikes or a bombing campaign in response to some fried computers or dead robots in outer space? Given the doubt that they would, large-scale cyber and space attacks – before a kinetic conflict even starts – are likely to be seen as a low-risk, high-payoff move for both sides.
Attack the right satellites, or attack the right computers, and one side may disrupt the other’s ability to use nuclear weapons – or at least place doubt in the minds of its commanders.
As a result, a major cyber and space attack could put nuclear “Use-or-lose” in play early in a crisis.
The first one is understanding the interplay between advances in cyber and counter-space weapons and bilateral nuclear stability.
The detector works like this: Durham and his co-investigators sandwich the pipe in question between two four-by-four-foot aluminum slabs. When an errant muon passes through one of the slabs, it sends a message to a computer, which logs the particle’s trajectory. The muon continues through the pipe, then passes through the slab on the other side—which again measures the particle’s angle. By calculating the difference between angles, researchers can get an idea of the path the muon took through the pipe’s molecules. And with enough muons, they can draw a pretty good picture of what’s going on inside the pipe.
Or inside anything, really. Muon detectors were invented after the 9/11 attacks, as a way of looking for smuggled nukes. It’s no problem to sneak a bomb past an X-ray detector. But muons can see through cars, can see through boats, can see through shipping containers. “At Freeport, in the Bahamas, they have a detector big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through,” says Durham. The detector can find a lump of uranium in about a minute. “A lot of stuff goes through the Bahamas on its way to the East coast,” says Durham.
But finding a glowing hunk of uranium is a lot easier than detecting the structure of a faulty pipe—hence the Los Alamos breakthrough. Compared to the Bahaman detector, the Los Alamos model moves pretty slow. This is because muons are rare. “We only get one muon per square centimeter per minute,” says Durham, so it can take about 4 to 6 hours to survey a single section of pipe. Increase the area of the detector, and you can get a faster picture.